Mt Isa recovery on track

Queensland Rail boss Nick Easy says the Mt Isa line is on track to reopen between late April and the middle of May, with good progress being made after last month’s major flooding event.

Easy on March 7 said Queensland Rail’s taskforce was continuing to spearhead repairs on the line between Cloncurry and Richmond, with the section between Richmond and Hughenden recently deemed open to rail traffic.

Crews worked on 50 damaged sites across 100 kilometres of railway between Richmond and Hughenden before opening the section on March 4.

“We are now working closely with our freight operators and their customers on options to restore services through this section and opportunities for freight to be loaded on and off trains at both Richmond and Hughenden,” Easy said.

“We will be continuing to work with our freight operators and their customers over the coming week to finalise these plans.”

Easy said weather was still a factor in repairs, with three kilometres of plastic mats delivered to sites, and construction beginning on temporary access roads at several locations.

“The teams will continue to utilise this matting as required to build access roads in areas which remain wet as repairs continue,” he said.

“Overall, work is progressing well to date and we will continue to provide weekly updates on our progress.”

A 60-bed camp is being built in Richmond to accommodate employees and contractors working on the recovery, and another 120-bed camp will be set up at Julia Creek to accommodate recovery works at Nelia.

“Accommodation presented a significant challenge for the recovery work, but now that a solution has been identified and is being implemented, the Taskforce is confident it can mobilise all of the crews and contractors required to accelerate the recovery program,” Easy said.

“Local contractors have been engaged to transport mobile, stackable buildings on trailers which will house workers unable to be accommodated in local motels and caravan parks and local suppliers in each town will also be hired to provide food, cleaning and supplies to the camps. The camps are expected to be operational within the next two weeks, if not earlier.”

40km of major washouts on Mt Isa Line

Receding floodwaters in Queensland’s northwest have allowed Queensland Rail crews to begin assessing the full extent of damage to the Mt Isa Line, with early reports showing damage across 307 kilometres of track.

QR chief executive Nick Easy updated the public on February 20, saying early assessments showed extreme erosion at 204 sites, including roughly 40 kilometres of major track washouts and 20 kilometres of track scouring.

“Work is underway to confirm required repairs and expected recovery timeframes, taking into account optimum use of all industry resources, plant and equipment.”

The Mt Isa Line has been closed since early February when northern Queensland was hit by an historic rainfall event.

A Pacific National freight train was stranded on the line, and Easy said work was continuing at Nelia – 50 kilometres east of Julia Creek – to assess the full extent of work required there.

“While ground conditions still aren’t dry enough to accommodate the heavy machinery required for Pacific National to recover the train and wagons, we are hopeful that – weather conditions permitting – Pacific National can commence this process late this week.”

An exclusion zone of 20 metres has been established around the train, and fencing will progressively be arranged around the site, Easy said.

19 of the train’s wagons carrying zinc concentrate, and two carrying lead concentrate, have sustained damage, according to Easy. Assessments are being made to identify potential impacts.

Elsewhere, crews continue to get a solid idea of damage done. 71 bridges have been inspected and 16 confirmed as damaged. 100,000 cubic metres of ballast or fill is estimated to be required to repair damaged track. And QR has already had 10,000 sleepers delivered to Hughenden and Cloncurry in anticipation of repair works.

“All available resources are being mobilised to undertake repairs, including engineers and track teams from South East Queensland, to ensure we return the Mt Isa Line to full operation as soon as possible,” Easy said.

As for a timeline, he reiterated his statements from last week. “At this stage Queensland Rail believes the line can be fixed earlier than the 6-12 months that has been suggested and reported,” he said. “We will continue to keep stakeholders and the community informed of these plans and timeframes.”

Madew appointed Infrastructure Australia boss

Green Building Council CEO Romilly Madew has been appointed as the next chief executive of Infrastructure Australia, the Federal Government’s independent infrastructure advisor.

Madew will assume the CEO role in April, replacing Anna Chau who has been acting CEO since Philip Davies left IA at the end of his three-year term last year.

Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack said Madew’s appointment would bolster IA’s skill and expertise, helping it better assist with planning and delivery of major infrastructure.

“Ms Madew has a proven ability to forge strong working relationships with colleagues and external shareholders in industry, government and the community and I welcome her appointment to this important leadership position,” McCormack, also the federal transport minister, said.

“Ms Madew’s expertise will help to ensure IA can continue to consult with a broad range of stakeholders to provide high quality advice and strategic feedback, to assist the Federal Government and others with making important decisions about major infrastructure investments.”

McCormack said one of Madew’s first priorities will be overseeing the finalisation of IA’s next Australian Infrastructure Audit, due for release in mid-2019.

Madew has been the CEO of the Green Building Council of Australia since 2006. She has occupied multiple board positions including as deputy president of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, the World Green Building Council, and the Sydney Olympic Park Authority.

In 2009, Madew won the national 2009 Telstra Business Women’s Award for Community and Government, in 2015 she won the US Green Building Council’s International Leadership Award, and in 2017 she won the World Green Building Council Chairman’s Award.

IA chair Julieanne Alroe said Madew had been a driving force behind Australia’s sustainable building movement.

“Recognised around the world as a leader in the property and construction industry, Romilly is an experienced CEO with expertise in strategy, governance and policy development,” Alroe said.

“She has forged strong working relationships with industry, government and community stakeholders through her current role and previous executive positions.”

Alroe said it was “an incredibly important time” for Madew to be joining IA, with the Audit due, and work soon to begin on the next Australian Infrastructure Plan.

Madew said she was honoured to begin a new chapter as IA’s CEO.

“Infrastructure Australia has a critical role to play in helping governments prioritise projects and reforms that best serve our communities,” she said.

“I look forward to growing the organisation’s focus on delivering better outcomes for individual users across transport, energy, telecommunications, water and social infrastructure.”

The appointment was immediately welcomed by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, which represents industry members.

“The appointment of Ms Madew will add strength to the independent advice of Infrastructure Australia in what is set to be a major year for infrastructure delivery,” IPA chief executive Adrian Dwyer said.

“Infrastructure Australia has enjoyed bipartisan support from both sides of the aisle over the years and it will be important that this tradition continues in the lead up to the election.”

Technical and commercial advisors appointed for Melbourne Airport rail

More than 100 local and international companies have registered their interest to take part in the construction of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL), and the State Government has named key advisors for the project.

A joint venture of Aurecon, Jacobs and Mott MacDonald has been named technical advisor for the project, which will build a rail connection from the CBD to Melbourne Airport via Sunshine.

In a statement from the Premier’s Office the government cited the members of the AJM joint venture’s track record on projects like London’s Crossrail, Sydney Metro Northwest, Auckland’s City Rail Link, and the Metro Tunnel project in Melbourne.

The joint venture has begun site investigations along the proposed MARL corridor as part of early planning work.

Meanwhile, KPMG has been appointed as a commercial advisor for the project.

“We are not wasting a minute in getting this project planned, designed and delivered,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on December 13.

“The Melbourne Airport Rail Link is the next step in our transformation of Victoria’s public transport network and a key part of the Suburban Rail Loop.”

“The Airport Rail Link will benefit all Victorians,” added transport infrastructure minister Jacinta Allan, “delivering a new super hub at Sunshine and paving the way for fast rail to the regions.”

The state selected the Sunshine route for MARL after a strategic appraisal found it performed better than alternatives via Maribyrnong, Flemington and Craigieburn.

The Federal Government, which has committed $5 billion to the project, came out in favour of the Sunshine route in late November.

Development of a detailed business case is underway, with the project set to begin construction by 2022. Next steps include stakeholder engagement work to help inform the business case, and further detailed planning.

The Registrations of Interest phase of the project resulted in more than 100 registrations from companies around the country, and around the world.

Rail Projects Victoria, which led the RoI program, said “more than 100 high calibre local and government organisations” from design, engineering, construction and finance sectors were keen to take part.

Parliament disclosure reveals BHP derailment clean-up task

WA’s environment minister has told Parliament up to 16,000 litres of diesel and 30,000 tonnes of iron ore were spilt during the intentional derailment of a runaway train by BHP last month.

BHP’s Perth control centre chose to derail a fully-loaded iron ore train 119 kilometres from Port Hedland, after it travelled uncontrolled for roughly an hour on November 9, having rolled away from its driver.

State environment minister Stephen Dawson on Thursday was asked 12 questions about the derailment by Greens member Robin Chapple, who represents the Mining and Pastoral region, which includes the Pilbara.

In his response, Dawson outlined the advice provided by BHP to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation under the Environmental Protection Act of 1986.

He said between 10,000 to 16,000 litres of hydrocarbon (i.e. diesel) was released, and “no one was in attendance at the time of the derailment and no immediate containment was undertaken”.

“Diesel-affected soil was excavated and placed into bunded areas that were lined with heavy duty plastic,” Dawson continued. “Further remediation has not yet commenced.”

BHP also detailed to the state that the destroyed rollingstock at the site would be cut up on scene and removed by truck for recycling.

In addition, “approximately 30,000 tonnes of iron ore was spilt [and] BHP advised that it will be disposed of to a licensed landfill”.

Inland Rail Condamine floodplain crossing draft design presented to landowners

A preliminary design for the Inland Rail project’s Condamine floodplain crossing in southern Queensland has been released and will be presented to communities in the region over the next two weeks.

The draft proposal for the crossing was first presented by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to the Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee (CCC) at Brookstead on Wednesday.

Inland Rail project director for the North Star to Gowrie section, Rob McNamara, said that numerous design options and their potential impact on flood levels and water behaviour at individual properties within the floodplain had been examined.

“Our preliminary design was selected because it minimises impacts downstream and upstream and has minimal impact on existing water flows,” McNamara said.

ARTC consultatants developed a flood model that was used to assess design options for the crossing of the floodplain.

“A detailed flood model of the Condamine floodplain catchment area has been developed using data from different sources, including Toowoomba Regional Council, the Bureau of Meteorology and government databases,” McNamara said.

“We then undertook a program of validating the flood modelling through meeting with individual landholders on-farm to discuss historic flood events and property flood markers.”

The initial presentation to the Darling Downs CCCl is to be followed by a further two weeks of information sessions across the Darling Downs to communicate details about the crossing proposal with local community members.

“We will be presenting the preliminary design to the wider community to give them the opportunity to provide feedback. We want as much feedback as possible and I really encourage people to come to our sessions in November, so they understand how the Condamine floodplain crossing is taking shape,” said McNamara.

Federal infrastructure and transport minister Michael McCormack said that both ARTC and the government were taking steps to ensure communities in the region were listened to and engaged with the planning process for the route.

“Last year the Australian Government made a firm commitment to communities in the Darling Downs to focus on the floodplain crossing as a priority and we’ve followed through on that pledge,” McCormack said.

“After months of consultation and work with landowners and stakeholders, a preliminary design has now been presented to the community for their feedback on a workable solution.

“Over the next two weeks, the ARTC will be presenting this preliminary design proposal to the wider community and I encourage everyone to participate in this process.”

Season’s first domestic Viterra train heads to east coast

Glencore Agriculture has sent its first train of the season to Australia’s east coast to provide feed barley to areas affected by the ongoing drought.

A train was loaded with 2,800 tonnes of feed barley last week at Viterra’s Tailem Bend site in South Australia. It arrived in Moree, NSW on Friday, September 28.

Glencore Agriculture grain merchant David Wood said more grain will head in the same direction amid continuing poor seasonal conditions.

“Managing the logistics of grain domestically is a key focus this harvest,” Wood said.

“It is important that we are getting grain to the right place at the right time, safely and efficiently.

“We are working closely with many end users to meet shortages using the most efficient mode of transport. Rail, road, and coastal vessels are being used to move grain across and around the country.”

Viterra Group operations manager Michael Hill said Viterra was facilitating outturns to help meet the needs of growers.

“We have removed Export Select status for both rail and road movements at key sites to allow the outturn of grain locally and make it easier for buyers to deliver grain to Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland,” Hill explained.

“The strong domestic requirement from the east coast means that pricing through the network is not typical of traditional port based pricing less the cost of freight to port.

“Growers are strongly encouraged to look at individual site based pricing at sites strategically located for domestic movements to take advantage of potential higher prices.”

ARA to develop partnership with British rail association

The Australasian Railway Association and the UK’s Railway Industry Association have agreed to work more closely together to benefit rail supply industries in both companies.

The ARA and RIA announced their new Memorandum of Understanding at InnoTrans in Berlin on September 19.

Together, the associations represent roughly 360 members. The sides said they share many common interests and deliver common services in their markets, which face similar opportunities and challenges.

“Both the UK and Australian rail sectors are expected to see continued significant investment in rail, but face issues recruiting new entrants into the rail industry, upskilling those already in the sector, smoothing out rail funding pipelines, and promoting the benefits of rail as a key driver of economic growth,” the associations said in a joint statement.

Chief executive Danny Broad said the new allegiance would provide benefits to all members of the ARA.

“It’s an extremely exciting time to be in the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand with investment in new rail infrastructure and rollingstock over the next fifteen years forecast to be around $100 billion,” Broad said.

“Working and collaborating with the RIA on common industry challenges will provide consolidation of ideas for possible suitable outcomes for the rail sectors covered by both the ARA and RIA.”

RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said the partnership would help members develop new trade links and cooperation, “which is especially important as the UK prepares to leave the EU”.

“I see lots of common ground to form this working relationship, for the benefit of both RIA, ARA and our respective members – and we look forward to collaborating in the very near future!”

Kaikoura earthquake rebuild nominated for international award

KiwiRail, NZ Transport Agency and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance have been named as one of the 10 finalists from around the world for the Institution of Civil Engineers People’s Choice Award 2018, having been nominated for their work to repair and reopen the Main North Line and State Highway One following the Kaikoura earthquake in late 2016.

The winner of the award will be determined by public vote. KiwiRail’s acting chief executive said that a large amount of support had come in from the freight industry and engineering professionals around the country as word spreads about the nomination.

“Being considered one of the top 10 projects in the world, and the only Southern Hemisphere finalist, is a wonderful recognition of the skills and dedication of everyone involved in this project,” said Moyle.

“This nomination demonstrates New Zealand’s strengths in engineering and emergency recovery. Just as important, however, is the well-deserved recognition of the hard work and dedication of thousands of workers whose efforts meant cut-off communities were reconnected, and freight flows restored quickly after that devastating earthquake.”

The Main North Line, which runs between Picton and Christchurch, is a major link in New Zealand’s transport supply network, with over 1 million tonnes of freight travelling between the North and South islands every year before the earthquake left over 150 kilometres of its length damaged.

Intense repair works allowed an initial restricted re-opening of the line in September 2017 for low-frequency freight services running five nights a week to allow repair and rebuilding work to continue. However, these were quickly suspended after exceptionally high levels of rain in Kaikoura, followed by another limited reopening of the line in November.

After being hit by Cyclone Gita in late February, freight services were once again briefly closed down for track repairs.

Despite the setbacks, the efforts of work teams from KiwiRail, NZ Transport Agency and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR), have meant that freight trains have been able to return to the line, with tens of thousands of tonnes of freight now being delivered via the Main North Line once again. KiwiRail is also looking forward to reintroducing its iconic Coastal Pacific scenic tourist train service in December this year.

“As the winner is being determined by popular vote, we are hoping Kiwis will show their appreciation for the tremendous efforts of all involved and vote for the project” Moyle said.

Voting will close for the award on September 26.

Adani ditches standard gauge plan for Carmichael, will use Aurizon network

Adani has shifted to a narrow gauge railway plan utilising existing rail infrastructure, in an effort to get its controversial Carmichael coal project off the ground.

The Indian energy company now plans to build 200 kilometres of narrow gauge railway linking the Carmichael site in the Galilee Basin to Aurizon’s existing network.

The original plan was for a dedicated 388-kilometre standard gauge railway to get coal from Carmichael to Adani’s export site at Abbot Point.

Adani Australia’s mining chief executive Lucas Dow said on September 13 the new plan would reduce capital costs for the rail portion of the project.

“By connecting to the existing network we can fast-track project delivery, reduce capital expenditure and deliver coal more quickly to countries in Asia with growing energy demand,” Dow said from Rockhampton.


Graphic: Adani Australia


The narrow gauge railway would follow the same route as was planned for the standard gauge route. Initial capacity will be 40 million tonnes per annum, to easily cater for Carmichael’s planned 27.5 million tonne production rate.

“We’re 100% committed to getting the Carmichael Project off the ground. Delivering practical, time efficient and cost-effective solutions such as this new rail design will ensure project benefits are realised as quickly as possible, especially in regional Queensland where people are eager to secure jobs and opportunities for small business,” Dow said.

Adani says it has all the necessary approvals and land access agreements to build the railway.

The new plan is an effort to clear funding obstacles faced by Adani getting Carmichael off the ground.

Adani was last year blocked from accessing $5 billion from the Commonwealth’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, when Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would veto the move.